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Scar Stories: The Journey of Healing, Strength, and Resilience – Renee’s Story

I’m thrilled to be doing a social media takeover this month for Coastal Goddess to talk about my journey with my skin (and scars!) over the past 10 years. It all starts in 2014, when I was diagnosed with my first Basal Cell Carcinoma, also known as a BCC. The Melanoma Institute of Australia describes BBCs as the most common form of skin cancer. Luckily, it rarely spreads to other parts of the body and typically develops on parts of the body that have been chronically exposed to the sun, such as the face.


This one appeared, par for the course, on my upper lip, at the top of the cupid’s bow. Initially, I found the site would bleed if I rubbed my face too hard with a face washer and often it had a scaly bit of skin on it when it had healed. When I went in search of an answer for what it was, one GP said it was a cold sore, and another said it was just a common anomaly. Thankfully I pushed for a third opinion, and that fantastic GP picked it up as a BCC straight away, despite me only being 28 years old at the time (BCCs typically don’t present in people under the age of 40, but this trend is tracking younger with time).


I was sent to a Specialist Dermatologist who was able to confirm the GPs suspicions through a biopsy, and I was sent to a Plastic Surgeon to remove the 1cm nodular tumor growing inside my lip. He removed majority of the left side of my lip and was able to reconstruct the area, which resulted in moderate scarring. I used a scar-healing cream called Strataderm under the Plastic Surgeon’s guidance and was able to help minimise the scar as much as possible. I also introduced a nightly massage routine, to help break up the hard scar tissue and promote collagen renewal in the area.

Recovering with stitches after BCC removal
After my first BCC on my lip at 28

After this initial BCC was removed, I was booked in for six-monthly check ups with the Specialist Dermatologist and during the next few years, I had moles removed from various parts of my body due to my family history of melanoma. These locations included my arms, my back and even inside my belly button!


Eventually, in 2021, the specialist found my second BCC, which was hidden up in my hairline, around a “cows-lick” on the left hand side of my face. As it was deemed more superficial than “nodular” (or tumor-like in mass), I was able to use a cream once a day for six weeks which essentially burnt away the skin, without any invasive surgery and I was saved another scar. I did lose my hair in that area, but it grew back eventually!


I continued my six-monthly check ups and one morning in 2022, I noticed a small scab in the middle of my forehead that bled when I washed my face, just as my lip had done, and I knew I had another BCC on my hands (or my head!). The Specialist Dermatologist was able to confirm that it was in fact an “infiltrating” BCC, which mean that unlike the other two BCCs, this one was spreading like a weed and needed to be removed as soon as possible.


Back to the plastic surgeon I went, and he booked me to see a Mohs Surgeon to remove the cancer. Mohs surgery is a method for treating skin cancer lesions. During this procedure, the surgeon removes thin layers of skin one layer at a time and examines each layer under a microscope to determine if any cancer remains. It means that the surgeon can be far more conservative with the amount of skin they remove, and the patient has the peace of mind that all the cancer has been removed in the one session, rather than finding out later that some was missed.


After surgery with the Mohs Surgeon in September 2022, I travelled across town and the Plastic Surgeon who was able to close up what is called a “defect”, which is essentially the hole that remains once the cancer is removed. Again, he and the Mohs Surgeon did a brilliant job, and I took to treating the site with the scar therapy cream, as well as employing some moderate massage to the site to limit the remaining scarring.

Recovering with stitches after third BCC removal in 2022
My third BCC removed from my forehead in 2022


Unfortunately, on a trip to the Specialist Dermatologist, late last year in 2023, I pointed out that I had another sore popping up regularly on the right side of my nose. She took one look at it and said she was fairly certain it was a BCC and so I started the biopsy process again. Strangely enough, I had once had my nose pierced in the exact spot as a young 20-something, and thought it was just a hangover from the resulting scar tissue, once I’d matured out of my “nose-ring era”.


Two days before Christmas, she called to say it was both a superficial, as well as a nodular BCC and I would be returning to the Plastic Surgeon. The Plastic Surgeon booked me in for Mohs surgery on Tuesday 9 April this year, where I will undergo two separate surgeries, one to have the cancer removed by the Mohs Surgeon and then travelling back across the city to have him close the defect later in the day.


While the Dermatologist originally thought this BCC might only be 1mm in size, the Plastic Surgeon feels that the biopsy had caused a slight immune response in my skin, and the cancer site was more likely to be 6-7mm is diameter now that the response was showing up the full mass. With the margin (or the extra space given to make sure all the cancer is removed), it’s looking likely that I may need to undergo a skin graft from my cheek, which is the most invasive face surgery I’ve had to date and definitely the most daunting.


With this news in mind, I came to visit Dr Kelly and the team at Coastal Goddess. I knew I was going to have to overcome quite a journey with this new scarring to my nose, and while the scars from my previous surgeries are amazing results in their own right, there are things about them that I don’t love.


After my free initial consultation with Dr Kelly, she and the team said they would be able to help me with some pre-surgery LED treatment to help stimulate collagen and aid recovery before surgery and then we will be able to consider some treatments like laser resurfacing for my forehead and some prescription treatments for my lip to address concerns I have with asymmetry in the cupid’s bow. I have absolute confidence that the team at Coastal Goddess will be able to help with all my concerns and I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with all their followers.


I urge anyone who has spots that look a bit like a pimple but act more like a sore to go and have them checked out. The best place to start is always with your family GP who can start to log your family history with skin cancer, do a check and refer you on in case there’s anything that doesn’t seem right. Your skin is the biggest organ in your body, and yet it probably gets the most damage and the least focus – so it’s time to shine some healthy light on what it means to take care of the skin you’re in!


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